Development, Typography

Choosing a Successful And Effective Font

In the early days of the internet, back when you were covering your dial up modem with a pillow so you could hear your CD’s play, no one was picky about fonts. Then the rise of AOL – and more importantly, AOL’s famous instant messenger – AIM came upon us. And with it, came the ability to choose our own fonts. Finally, we were given some semblance of control over how we appeared on the internet. Do we seem wise, and learned, and choose Papyrus? Or perhaps we’ll be playful and fun today, and use Comic Sans. Suddenly, the ability to choose a font actually impacted how we appeared to other people – and bots – on the internet.

Since those days, the choices in fonts have exploded exponentially. The choices are endless, with thousands to choose from, and even being able to draw and create our own fonts for free, with just a visit and a click on the internet. Some have suggested that the font on your website, application, or profile doesn’t really matter, or that readers simply don’t notice. Is this the case? Do people really not even pay attention to the Bold Italic Comic Sans on your website?

Not only do people notice, they do worse – they judge. Your font choice is just as critical as the background of your web page, how pixelated your profile picture is, or the colors you use on your company’s website. At times, it can make or break you. So how do you traverse the proverbial field of land mine full of deadly font choices? Here are three rules to help guide you to a successful font choice.

Dress Appropriately for the Occasion

proper font
(Source: Getty Images)

You wouldn’t wear a bikini to a funeral, a suit and tie to the beach, or high heels to pull weeds in the garden. You dress appropriately for the occasion. Similarly, fonts need to be chosen based on what’s appropriate. If you’re designing a website for a law firm, choosing a cursive, whimsical font most likely won’t cut it. However, that same font might work perfectly for a blog about arts and crafts. Step back, think about what you want to reflect, and what the fonts say about that idea, and go from there.

Fun or Functional – Can we have it Both Ways?

(Source: Getty Images)

So you found the perfect font for your title. It screams everything you want it to scream – whimsical, bold, fun. But can you read it? It’s the old battle between fun versus functional, stylish versus comfortable. And in many areas of life, it’s hard to get both. It’s hard to have stilettos that feel like your favorite pair of fuzzy slippers.

When it comes to font choice, something stylish that grabs a reader’s attention is great. Overuse it, however, and you’ll lose its effectiveness. Pairing stylish, eye grabbing fonts with a functional, easy to read font works wonders. Many effective designers have used eye grabbers in titles, leading sentences, or company names, while following it with a nice, practical font that’s easy to read.

The Most Important Rule: There Are No Rules

creative-H-rules broken
(Source: Getty Images)

When it comes right down to it, choosing a font is really about gut instinct. There is no mathematical formula that you can plug into an Excel sheet and get exactly which choice is best for you. If it’s easy to read looks good, and fits the situation, go for it. If you’re having doubts, ask a neutral party, or simply keep looking. With thousands of choices, running out of options when it comes to choosing a font isn’t ever going to be a problem.

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